Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, has pledged to work closely with the local farming community and has vowed during his tenure to return the sector to a place of prominence in Barbados.

Speaking during the Barbados Agricultural Society’s Annual General Assembly at the Grand Barbados Beach Resort last Saturday, he called farmers and those involved in the sector "unsung heroes" who made their livelihoods by trying to feed the nation, amidst many challenges.

Among those challenges, Dr. Estwick mentioned were the rising cost of inputs, the unavailability of lands, the loss of prime agricultural lands, the incidence of praedial larceny and the growing effects of climate change and changing weather patterns.

"Despite all that is happening, I see you, the farming community of Barbados, as playing a vital role in this society…As Minister, I wish to pledge my commitment to working with you [the BAS] and the wider farming community to see agriculture on a solid path," he stated.

Dr. Estwick also outlined several initiatives which his Ministry will be undertaking, which are aimed at advancing the sector and alleviating some of the challenges it is facing.

One such programme, he said, was a clear marketing strategy for the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC).

"The system will be designed around the concept of a State Trading Enterprise…This programme will also enhance the competitiveness of local farmers by promoting the production of wholesome and high quality products, the use of new technologies and the efficient use of resources," Dr. Estwick explained.

The Agriculture Minister added that as part of the strategy, the BADMC with the assistance of the Ministry will develop a comprehensive market intelligence system to replace the current Agricast programme.

He pointed out that unlike its predecessor, this new system will not be limited to farmers within the irrigated districts, but will be extended to encompass the entire value chain. Its aim is to track the production and trade of all local agricultural products throughout the sector.

Dr. Estwick said a renewed focus on Agro-Tourism would also be on the agenda, which is not just limited to the provision of produce to hotels and restaurants.

"The Ministry and the BAS over the years have sought to develop such a relationship with the tourism industry by engaging in talks and outlining strategies to promote consistency in supply. We have seen progress in this area and wish to commend the efforts of some of the private sector entities…who have exhibited a willingness to partner with local producers rather than expend valuable foreign exchange on imports,"?? the Agriculture Minister declared.??

Author: Andr?? Skeete

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